It’s homework time! Which usually means there may be the small matter of a gladiatorial battle of wills to be held with a person whose size belies their sheer volume of stubbornness. How do we navigate our way through these moments? What do we do to try and reduce the tears? For us, it’s about understanding what’s going on, creating the right environment and holding on tight if the ride is bumpy.
Assess the situation and regroup
Why can it be so difficult? Start by looking at what’s going on for you. Why am I so entrenched in this position? Am I hurrying him along to get time to play? Am I focused on getting the week ahead sorted so was hoping for 30 minutes quiet? Am I worrying that he’s falling behind? Is this just too late in the weekend to work?
Then, have a think about what’s going on with the small person channelling their inner mule. Their life is as busy as ours and there may be a myriad of reasons why this homework session isn’t going entirely to plan. Have they eaten? Has he had a hard week at school? Has she been doing extra dance activities? What was he doing when I asked him to do the homework? Have there been issues with pals or at school this week?
Sometimes, looking at what’s going on, all that’s needed is a regroup. A simple, “It needs to be handed in on Tuesday. When would you like to do it?” .
Creating the right environment
Make the right conditions: building routine so a child knows to expect it, and creating goodwill before getting on with the job goes a long way.
A set homework time and length – nightly and/or weekly – really helps. How do some of us at DoodleMaths achieve this with our children? One member of the team has the ability to set particular times where all phone and game consoles are deactivated on a set pattern over the week. Another member of the team’s children completes DoodleMaths on the drive to school and when siblings are in their swimming classes.
Is there a place that you can all sit down and ‘complete homework’ together? And remember, if DoodleMaths is the regular homework, in the ‘Grown Ups’ section of the app you can set times for daily reminders.
Try to avoid immediately doing homework after school or a tiring activity. Making sure everyone has time to reset and clear their head, makes it easier to get on with it and finish.
If a child struggles with 20 minutes, start with 10 and build it up. In true growth mindset style, celebrate efforts, not achievements with your child, so be patient if their work doesn’t fit your expectations.
Create goodwill. Let’s face it, the expression ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ exists for a good reason. If you do something nice for them, create a bit of good will; they’re more likely to react positively to a request to do homework. “Shall we have a snack and a drink and then we can crack on with finishing this homework?” “Do you want to play together for 10 minutes and then do homework?”
Something a member of the team has found that works with her child is dedicating 10 minutes a day to special time – 10 minutes where the child can choose what and how they play with them – then transition to homework. Another whizzes through homework just sat on their grown-up – like a big parent chair of comfortableness.
Then there’s the dreaded cry of “I hate homework”. Recognise the feeling and move them on, “I completely understand. Why do you hate it?”. Helping them articulate what the specific issue is means you can help them overcome the powerful feelings. Ask them what they love. Ask them which the best bit of homework is. Give them a pencil. “Homework is boring!” Ask to have a look and then fall asleep. One of our children quickly focuses when we get them laughing.
Just hang on in there and think of the bigger picture
And occasionally, we choose just to wait it out. Two hours of lurking with the occasional cuddle and encouragement, whilst they’re distracting themselves, involving themselves in their siblings’ homework, balancing the contents of their pencil case on top of each other. We’ve all been there. An hour-long sob about doing homework sat on our knee, even with the offer of a distracting play, followed by then doing it in 10 minutes when we’ve moved onto something else. We’ve all had that experience too.
It is frustrating but here’s the thing to hold onto, what you’re teaching them is to keep on going when it’s hard, that setbacks and mistakes are things to learn from and that finding a positive mindset can change the problem. And those are the lessons in life that create resilience – life lessons that are so much more important than the actual homework!
Article by Helen at DoodleMaths. Currently parenting four boys!